ALL ABOUT CHRISTMAS
by Rev. Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines
Nowhere in the Scripture where we could find the exact date of Jesus’ birth. Traditionally, we claim that Christ was born on the 25th of December. But as to its veracity is still debatable. Some argued that Jesus was born not on the month when the weather is as cold as that of December. Scholars believe that the month of December was chosen only to counteract the pagan Roman celebrations honoring their pagan gods i.e. Mithras (god of light) and Saturnus (the harvest god).
However, I believe that exact date of Jesus’ birth should not be of so much concern to anyone considering the fact that Christmas is a celebration of the Incarnation and not just a memorial of a specific date. Christmas is not just about the birth of Jesus. It doesn’t matter therefore even if we may not be celebrating Jesus’ birth on the exact date when he was born. The celebration of his birth should be contemplated in its deeper meaning and that is the mystery of Jesus’ incarnation. The Son of God became a man. In the Nicene Creed we profess, “For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary and was made a man.”
The word Christmas originates from the Old English “Cristes Maesse” literally translated “the Mass of Christ.” And therefore every time the Mass is celebrated and we receive Jesus in the Eucharist we are like celebrating Christmas. Christmas is all about Jesus becoming a man to be with us.
We celebrate Christmas Eve because it is believed that Jesus was born at midnight. Significantly, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, literally means “the house of bread.” In Hebrew, Beth-lehem is two words and means “house” (Beth as in Beth-el, “house of God”) and “bread” (lehem). While Jesus was laid in a manger. The manger in itself has its significance. The word “Manger” comes from the Latin word “Munducare” meaning “to eat.” It was, therefore, highly symbolic that Jesus was laid in a manger. We now have a more profound understanding of the Eucharist. The manger has become a sign that Jesus is sustenance for us. In the Eucharist, we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). We partake of Jesus in the form of Bread and Wine (His Body and Blood).
The story of Christmas is the story of God’s becoming a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ. But why would God wants to be with us? Well, because we need a Savior. We need redemption. And because God loves us so much. Celebrating Christmas is a celebration of God’s immense love for mankind. The real meaning of Christmas should be a celebration of God’s love with our family and friends. Make the celebration of Christmas more meaningful by imitating Christ in the giving of himself. Nowadays Christmas has become too commercialized. Have we lost the true meaning of Christmas? Let us put Christ back in the celebration of Christmas. Our focus should not be on material things that could only bring us fleeting and superficial happiness. One should seek the joy that Christmas brings. Christ alone could provide us that real joy. Let’s find more meaning in the giving than in receiving.
At this point, allow me to share with you my favorite Christmas story:
THE GIFT OF THE MAGI by O. Henry
O. Henry tells of a famous Christmas story. It is about a young married couple who were very much in love. Christmas was approaching and they wanted to give a present to one another. But they were very poor and had no money for presents. So each one, without telling the other, decided to sell his or her most precious possession. The girl prized above all else her long golden hair. She went to a hairdresser and had it cut off. She then sold it to buy a lovely watch chain for her husband’s watch.
He, in the meantime, went to a jeweler and sold the only watch he had to buy two beautiful combs for his beloved’s hair.
On Christmas, they exchanged their gifts. At first, they cried, then they laughed. There was no hair for the comb and no watch for the watch chain.
But there was something more precious and that was the idea behind their gifts: each had deprived self of the best to give to the other…
A gift is no gift if it does not cost us something if it does not contain a part of ourselves. (Frank Mihalic – The next 500 stories)
God gave us the most precious of all gifts – the gift of His Son, our Lord Jesus. It was the gift of his presence. Christmas is all about God wanting to be with us. He is Emmanuel, meaning God is with us. When we look at the manger, we do not only see a cute baby boy. That baby boy grew up and offered himself on the cross to save us. Christmas is therefore about Jesus and his saving love for us. It could thus be summarized (John 3:16) “For God so loved the world that he gave us His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but may have eternal life.”
Wishing everyone a grace-filled Christmas! All the best for 2019